This second A-Z e-bulletin continues to provide some food for thought about your management role

As I write this e-bulletin the weather is fabulous. Gardens are blooming, the sun is shining and everyone is talking about how much better they feel when they see the sun. No doubt by the time you read the article it will be raining and we will be saying, ‘we’ve had our summer!’ But I don’t want us to lose that feel good feeling we get when the sun is shining. Why not? Because that’s the feeling you want when the sun metaphorically shines in your school. So, this term, to be sure that the sun always shines we are holding a mirror up to our practice and looking in detail at the A-Z of school life. In this e-bulletin we look at C, D and E. Remember, the idea is that I give you some suggestions for each letter and then you and your teams think of some other possibilities and focus on those that mean the most for your school.

C = Children, checking things get done, communication, coherence, contingency plans, culture
Something happened this week that made me decide to choose children for the letter C. I haven’t come across it for some time so it seemed doubly concerning. When visiting a school I talked to a Y5 teacher about learning and then moved the conversation on to talk about key stage 1. At this point the teacher said that as key stage 1 was another key stage it was nothing to do with her. I was flabbergasted and hope you are, too. Staff are employed to a school, not a class. What happens to every child in every class in the school should matter to every member of staff. Unless your school is small you probably can’t expect staff to know the name of every child (although school leaders should) but they should know about the progress of year groups, the requirements of different cohorts and children moving through the school and what you as a school are doing to meet needs. To ensure that children get the best possible education and make the best possible progress, staff also have to know and understand what has gone before and what comes after. Tackle quickly any sense of a teacher seeing his or her world as the four walls of the classroom. To be confident that staff see beyond their immediate environment do all you can to ensure that they understand the learning journey from foundation stage to year 6. Use learning walks on a regular basis; buddy staff in different key stages to work together on school improvement priorities; use modelling, coaching and scaffolding of teaching and learning so that staff can learn from best practice. Be creative in what you plan for and do, so that you are confident that for the sake of the children each member of staff understands their role, responsibilities and accountabilities for every child in the care of the school.

D = Decisions, determination, dispositions, delays, differences, development
How many decisions have you made today? You have probably lost count already. Some you will have made and shared as you walked the school. Others will be a result of careful consideration and reflection. Each is important and each will impact on what happens in your school. Leaders have to make decisions – it goes with the job and you can’t escape it. Many headteachers say that commencing the capability process with staff is a tough decision but if everything you are hearing and seeing about a member of staff tells you that teaching is not good enough and performance management supports this, you must do something about it. Delaying your decision to proceed has a serious effect on children’s education during their time in that class. Your responsibility is not to allow that to happen. Make your decision and proceed with good advice and support.

E = Early Years, education, evaluation, expectations
We all know the importance of the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS). It’s recognised as one of the most important stages of a child’s life. So how confident are you as a leader in understanding the learning, teaching and analysis of the Early Years Foundation Stage Profile (EYFSP)? Go in to any foundation stage class and you can be seduced. Children busy at work. The room is probably bright and hopefully with provision that is exciting and challenging the children. It all looks just as you think the foundation stage should look. But, let’s dig deeper. As a school leader can you talk knowledgeably with foundation staff about the scales and points of the EYFSP? When you go through the data with staff do they know that you understand what they are saying and, when you visit the foundation stage do you know what to look for indoors and outdoors so that you can be sure children are getting the right provision to progress in their learning? The EYFS is a key stage. It’s the responsibility of leaders to know and understand all key stages. Make sure that any gaps in leadership knowledge and understanding of this important key stage are tackled quickly. For more information access Learning, Playing and Interacting: Good Practice in the Early Years Foundation Stage reference 00775-2009BKT-EN

It’s no secret that the most effective schools have strong school improvement processes which they apply consistently. This is the bread and butter of their work. They are also good at doing the hard things well and as time goes on they get even better at this. These schools get on with what has to be done because they know that avoidance, procrastination, delay and turning a blind eye are not part of the recipe for a successful school. What you do today impacts on tomorrow and that’s why putting practice and leadership under the spotlight can only make things better for children.

This e-bulletin issue was first published in April 2010

About the author: Jane Golightly has written extensively on school improvement and has more than 30 years experience in primary education